If you thought Annabelle was the entire story, you thought wrong. Annabelle: Creation dives deeper into the origins behind that creepy doll. When a group of orphans comes to stay with a dollmaker and his reclusive wife, they stumble upon the mysterious doll and unleash an evil that hungers for their souls.

A “Kids” Horror Movie

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The kids are not all alright in this film.

We don’t get a lot of horror movies aimed at kids anymore. There were a number of such films in the 1980s – shout out to fellow fans of The Gate – but the genre hasn’t been too interested in younger audiences in recent years. Annabelle: Creation changes that in the best way by making its protagonists two young girls. Kids have been a staple of the Conjuring series but they have always been overshadowed by the adult characters. Annabelle: Creation‘s decision to make the kids’ perspectives our focus actually heightens a lot of the tension and spookier moments. That nightmarish quality hits harder when it’s being experienced by younger people.

It helps that the two leads, Janice and Linda, are interesting characters with a relatable relationship. They are both orphans who want to be adopted together, and their sisterly affection for each other really works. You care about these girls way before the haunted hijinks kick in. And when things get dark – and boy, do they get dark and monster crazy – you’re not scared or worried just because the movie switched into spooky mode. It’s because you don’t want these girls to get hurt, especially since the film doesn’t shy away from putting them in genuine peril.

A Fun but Formulaic Fright Fest

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Director David Sandberg has to be more hands-on with certain actors.

And a lot of that peril is a blast. This is the first film in the Conjuring universe that seems aware of the gleeful fun of being scared by a movie. The other Conjuring films often felt a little self-serious at times and that conflicted with their spook-a-blast structure. Annabelle: Creation leans into that wholeheartedly. It’s the one film in the series that accurately recreates the feeling of walking through a haunted house attraction.

That’s a slight detriment when some of the scares become a tad predictable. That might also have to do with the ironclad formula these movies are cultivating. Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Conjuring films are finding a pattern and sticking to it. Director David Sandberg helps spice things up with some inventive camerawork and dynamic staging, but the blueprint of this world is becoming a lot clearer. And like all the Conjuring films, the climax loses some juice once the horror switches into pure action mode. It’s not a damning offense but it’s one that needs to be noted.

Is Annabelle: Creation Good?

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Spoiler: you will see Annabelle be created.

It’s definitely the best entry in the Conjuring franchise since the original film. It’s got good characters, a different viewpoint on the scares, excellent direction, and some nice nods for fans of the series. This is a horror movie with real polish that never feels like a quick cash-in. Annabelle: Creation is the kind of standard we should expect from studio horror films. Take your kids! …That’s gonna come back to haunt me.